Have you MovieTalked yet?

My world language friends, it is TIME to try the technique: Movie Talk if you haven’t yet! 

Last week, I had the opportunity to work with teachers from Southern New Jersey, about sixty World Language teachers came together on Friday afternoon as part of the “LRCC”. The fact that this district has so many world language teachers is amazing!

We delved deep into three main areas: Planning & Preparation, Assessment Design & Classroom Experience and we used information from the TELL project to help guide our reflective questioning & ideas shared.

As many teachers had expressed their interest in learning more “CI” based methods, I shared a few techniques with the whole group. Here is the compiled list below.

Total Physical Response


Visual Prompts 

Teaching Proficiency Through Reading & Storytelling


Station Activities


Gesture Reading Circling

Reader’s Theatre Socrative Seminar

Embedded Reading Reciprocal Reading  (Informational Text)

Literature Circles (Narrative Text) Writers Workshop

Brain Breaks Pre-During-Post Reading Strategies

My focus was set on MovieTalk as an interpretive listening technique and I was able to provide a short demonstration using a silent film from the series: Simon’s Cat. Since it was Valentine’s Day the day before, I thought a film about “amor” would be appropriate. This could have also served as a catalyst for discussing & exploring how other cultures celebrate Valentine’s Day or how others show love or kindness to one another.

First, I created a script and then pulled out important vocabulary words that I would highlight & make sure to repeat during the actual MovieTalk. Then, I designed pre-viewing and after-viewing activities for novice learners of Spanish. I also created a “cheat sheet” for myself and placed it in the back of the “classroom” so I could keep repeating my selected keywords.

Key Vocabulary:  Hay,  juega(n), rasca(n), se limpia(n), quiere, mariposa

MovieTalk Demonstration Video: Simon’s Cat

MovieTalk Presentation (with resources!)

Prior to viewing this video, I had the keywords/structures on eraseable cubes for each table to “roll” and either: draw, define or use the word in a sentence. This became my “pre-viewing” activity but there are so many other ways to get students to interact with key vocabulary prior to actually viewing the film. After I conducted a MovieTalk (approx. 14 minutes), the participants were handed envelopes with sentence strips and they had to put the sequence of events in order at their tables. Both activities selected were created with the Novice learner in mind and I really tried to gauge the attention of the non-Spanish speaking individuals in the room throughout this demonstration. Throughout the workshop, participants/students were using their interpersonal speaking abilities, interpretive listening and interpretive reading skills throughout the activities planned. If I wanted to take it a step forward, I could have the participants/students focus on presentational writing/speaking however, I was providing this demo for really “first year, first day/week” Spanish students, so I opted to delay any forced output so soon in the school year but rely on other methods to check for comprehension & understanding.

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to Silent Films and this is a MovieTalk Database that I have used in the past. But you can really use anything if you turn off the sound such as commercials or music videos!

In 2015, at both the FLENJ & ACTFL conferences, I also highlighted MovieTalk as a powerful technique for all World Language teachers. Here is the link to that Prezi presentation.

I have witnessed excellent MovieTalks thanks to the educators who are willing to share, such as Martina Bex & Alina Filipescu, I highly recommend watching others before starting!

Any ideas or comments are welcome below! I look forward to learning about your experience with using the MovieTalk technique with your classes!






Culture is my Daily Catalyst!

A few months ago I had the opportunity to teach Spanish III and we began with the unit, “Stories of the Past, Dreams of the Future”.  It was wonderful to return to the classroom and below I share my journey with this common Level III unit.

The unit’s communicative functions & essential questions are:

-Recount the past

-Describe how life used to be

-Compare/contrast life in the past to the present

-Compare/contrast present life to the future

-Predict the future

-Discuss future endeavors

-How does our past define who we are?

-How does our present shape our future?

And the department established “target questions” to help guide the daily focus of the unit, providing flexibility but also addressing the essential questions & communicative functions.

Level III Targets.png

Working with department colleagues, we established that we would utilize the reader, “La Llorona de Mazatlan” and planned our unit with the reader in mind, with a focus on Mexican culture, stories & legends.

As I began with this unit, I had an approximate window of when this unit would conclude and the different points of entry that I wanted to explore with students, based on the upcoming reader, vocabulary & structures necessary to address these communicative goals. I also started the school year with this unit and choose to focus primarily on describing past events & actions. So I began to plan out my weeks….

Week 1/2: Getting to Know Each Other, Establishing a Classroom Community/Goals & Descriptions of Summer Vacations  (Google Slideshow) 

Getting to know students and establishing a positive classroom culture is a key ingredient from day one. One way I approached this concept was doing a “Breakout” with students. Thanks to Kristine Keefe-Hasan (@kkeefe_hasan) aka LaProfeAlta, I was introduced to her breakout, Gozadera, which had the students working in teams to try to unlock the puzzles! It was neat to see them working together to build our classroom community during the first few days together. I also used Canva to design my Spanish III syllabus, which was a different way to approach the typical first-day class outline. (rodriguez syllabus espanol iii)

I started off by describing what I had done for the Summer of 2018 and ironically, I had recently taken a trip to Mexico with my family. I was able to provide input through images and video of my experience and as a pre-assessment for students, asked that the students share the same through the creation of a Screencast video of their summer vacations. This provided me with immediate insight as to how well the students could describe past events and from this, I changed my instructional practices to further emphasize descriptions in the past. 

Week 3: Highlighting Famous Spanish-Speaking Individuals  (Google Slideshow)

After the first class meeting, I knew the students needed way more input! I selected the biographical reader, Vidas Impactantes, and broke the class into six different groups, to allow students to become “experts” on a particular Spanish-speaking individual and to also highlight Hispanic Heritage Month. Students read in class and I utilized the literacy technique of “Reciprocal Reading” as students alternated which role they played as they read in small groups. As a follow-up assessment, students created informative Google Slideshows about their individual to be shared with the class. They were also given an interpretive reading and presentational writing assessment/quiz focused on key vocabulary. This key vocabulary pulled from Vidas Impactantes had a direct correlation to the unit’s essential questions & the upcoming reader: La Llorona. 

Week 4/5: El Pasado: Leyendas Mexicanas (Google Slideshow)

These weeks were served as recycling vocabulary from La Llorona, so I continued with my emphasis on input by providing students with (4) Mexican legends that we would read together and discuss. I also provided vocabulary lists through Quizlet, which students practiced with vocabulary both in/out of class. I displayed these lists for students to view & we also “acted” out the words as a whole group.

I utilized different reading techniques such as volleyball translation, whole group reading, popsicle stick reading (randomly calling on students to continue), paired reading and stop/summarize reading. Each legend that students read was read differently. After reading and discussing these different legends, students discussed which was their “favorite” and interviewed my sister-in-law via Skype, who happens to be from Mexico. I also used the song & music video, “Robarte un beso” to emphasize my sister-in-law’s favorite legend: El Callejón del Beso. 

Week 6/7/8: La Llorona, Our IPA, The Reader & Mexico: El Presente (Google Slideshow 1 , 2 ) 

Before diving into the reader, “La Llorona”, I wanted to build background knowledge for the students about this legend. Students completed an EdPuzzle activity for homework and I conducted a MovieTalk narrating the legend using a Youtube video. I posted the La Llorona vocabulary in the back of the classroom, so as I retold the story, I could continue to recycle/emphasize certain words.

At this point, I felt the students were ready to engage in a summative Integrated Performance Assessment with the emphasis of Mexican Legends. Students were provided a different version of La Llorona to read & respond to questions as their interpretive portion, students engaged in a Writers Workshop process by re-writing their own version of their favorite Mexican legend and finally, students had to re-tell their stories/ask questions about one another’s favorite legends for their interpersonal portion via FlipGrid.  Questions posed to assist with their conversations were as follows: 

Describa tu leyenda mexicana a tu compañero. 

¿Quién es parte de tu leyenda?  ¿Qué pasó?

¿Cómo terminó tu leyenda?  ¿Te gustó la leyenda? ¿Por qué?

We began to read the reader as a class and at this point, because of the backward design process and all of the “preloading” of the important vocabulary that was coming up in this reader, students were able to comprehend 90-95% of the story. In one of the beginning chapter, a discussion between the main character and her father takes place about whether or not Mexico is a safe country. We paused as a class to explore this question and I used materials created by the wonderful Kara Jacobs (@karacjacobs) 

Unidad Didáctica: Narcoviolencia en México

to discuss narco-violence. Taking it a step further and hoping to have students further connect, my brother who is a police officer shared via Google Hangouts how widespread the Mexican cartel violence truly is as he described some of his experiences with local gangs and hostage situations. Please know that my intention was not to scare these 10th/11th-grade students but to ensure that they are aware that these crimes are happening globally and also, affecting our communities locally in New Jersey. 

Hagan ahora.png

A wonderful aspect about these culturally relevant readers is that it does provide a teacher with moments to transition for a bit outside of the reader and dive into a topic that is compelling/interesting for the students to explore & discuss. 

My short experience with teaching Spanish III proved that you can utilize common curriculum documents, essential questions, and communicative functions but still allow culture to guide the path & planning of daily lessons. I chose to emphasize Mexico, Mexican culture and legends but there are many different ways one can go to reach that same goal of utilizing a culturally relevant reader with students for communicative purposes!

*A special thank you to Ms. Courtney Farrell (@SrtaFarrell) & Mrs. Ivica Kanova (@ikanova1), Teachers of Spanish at Pascack Valley High School, who served as tremendous resources throughout my planning & unit creation. It was through this collegial collaboration that I gained many new ideas & perspectives! 




10th grader For The Day

My Monday began in a new fashion, where I found myself curious about how my day would be. There were no meetings to attend, lesson plans to review or phone calls to make.

Today was new and quite different because I was going to school to shadow a 10th grade student and experience what a day is like in the shoes of a Pascack Valley High School student.

I was nervous yet excited to experience high school again but this time through the lens of an educator. What would be my biggest takeaways and what would I do differently going forward after such a unique experience?

Takeaway #1: High School is Hard.

With a seven-period day and common lunch, I found myself exhausted at the end of the day and luckily there were no clubs or sports scheduled after school. In each class period, there were different expectations and I had to demonstrate my knowledge in a variety of ways. I found myself to be quite challenged in my chemistry class but at ease in Honors Spanish (naturally 🙂 Each teacher found different ways to connect his or her students to the goal(s) of the lesson and I appreciated the collaborative classroom dynamics but also rigor I encountered from each learning experience.

Takeaway #2: The LMS works.

Canvas, an LMS or learning management tool, was used in almost every class which made it easy to access documents or links needed for the day. With all of my teachers using the same tool, there was no second guessing where to go to find what was needed for the day or week. I had immediate access to all documents, videos, links, etc. that I needed and this was a relief. I didn’t have to spend time searching or wondering where teachers placed our tools, it was simple to access and made me feel comfortable, being that it was my first time in that class.

 Takeaway #3: Our Kids are Happy.

Throughout the day and in my discussions with my new peers, students were positive and had comments of content/happiness with their high school experience. Students were open and honest about their schedules, exams and upcoming deadlines. It made me consider the mental wellness initiatives that the district has explored and the Wellness Centers made available to the student body and also the unique schedule. I appreciated seeing how the students respected their teachers and were able to joke around with many due to their comfort with the individual. It was clear that students felt at ease as we all shuffled together throughout the day and the rhythm that it is to be a PV high school student. It is a unique rhythm filled with opportunity, challenges, and comfort. 

As my day came to an end with the dismissal bell at 2:51pm, I began to process what I had experienced. I thought a lot about each of the above takeaways and how we can continue to do our best for our students and their futures.

Classes that inspired creativity and collaboration were my favorite of the day. When I was able to put either my hands or brain to work, I felt that the class period truly flew by. Starting my day with Culinary Arts was certainly refreshing! The accessibility of content and information through the district-wide LMS assisted me locate what I needed and what I had to do. This provided me with both comfort and a sense of ownership/time management skills. And finally, knowing that the school culture that I experienced was both friendly and positive, I felt proud to be part of such a culture.

So, as an educator, create lessons which will inspire creativity & collaboration amongst your students. No more spoon feeding or lecturing, let them discover the knowledge needed and use it to problem solve, create or justify their findings. The best classroom experiences were the ones in which I was able to work with my peers and learn with one another. The teachers made me feel comfortable and helped to guide me. The collaboration piece was empowering and I appreciated the dialogue that I had with my “peers”.

Looking ahead, examine your own lessons from the lens of a student- How engaged would you be if you were experiencing your own class? Would you want to be a student in your own class?  Take time to build positive, trustworthy relationships with your students and make sure that they are in the forefront of each experience you create, each day.

It is easy to forget what life is like as a high school student. I encourage all educators to get back in the classroom and take time to see what life is really like, from behind that student desk.

For additional ideas & insight, visit http://shadowastudent.org/

*A special thank you to NZ for her patience and assistance throughout my day. She is an extremely respectful, kind and diligent 10th grader. It was an absolute pleasure to shadow and learn from her. 




#becausewecan Reflections

Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting quite often about teacher empowerment and leadership. I think about the dedicated individuals who serve our students each day and the growth amongst those who are willing to share and learn with others. We do, what we do, #becausewecan.

This year I am organizing and coordinating two upcoming professional development events that a few years ago, did not think were possible. Two events that will hopefully inspire growth and improvement in teaching methodologies, instructional activities, and proficiency-based assessments within world language classrooms. Two events that wouldn’t be possible without other volunteers and like-minded colleagues who believe in the power of collaboration. Two events that are taking an incredible amount of my own personal time but will hopefully be well worth it, for everyone who attends.

Ultimately, each event is unique but in both circumstances, my own personal motivation to work as tirelessly as I do to create such learning opportunities for teachers, is the same. In this profession, you can’t “know it all” and it is impossible to feel that you did an outstanding job with every single aspect of your instruction and assessments. In education, there is always “something” we can try, “something” we can explore and “something” that we can share with our colleagues. It is with this curiosity or rather thirst for knowledge is where I find myself. I continuously look at how I can improve, how I can better reach/engage students and ultimately, how I can instill a love for communicating in another language with all my students.

I am asked, “Why are you doing all of this? Why are you so involved?” The answer is simple: I want to help teachers. I want to share, learn and grow with everyone. I want to help empower teachers to feel equipped with their own set of “tools” and “tricks” when they walk back into their own classrooms. I want world language classes and programs to have great meaning within communities. I want our students to graduate and think about how amazing their world language class was/how useful it was to pay attention in class when they land that bilingual position. I want our students to continue their love for languages as adults.

When you surround yourself with passionate, creative and hardworking educators, great things CAN and DO happen.

I’m looking forward to the 2016 WL Tech Institute (@WLTechInstitute) and EdCampWL (@edcampWL). Two events that are possible #becausewecan.

WL Tech Institute LogoWL Tech Institute Flyer

Screenshot 2016-06-21 18.43.19  *If you are interested in starting your own #edcamp, check out http://www.edcamp.org/ for great resources and ideas! I love how schools are using the #edcamp model with both teachers and students! Talk about empowering all learners! 😀 


GIFs for Output!

Once again, a colleague shared with me an amazing, free website that made me jump up and down with techie excitement!

GIF or Graphic Interchange Format are short, video files that have been compressed and are usually quite entertaining.


For creative output, try the following activities with your students:

-Use GIFs to teach new vocabulary/spark vocabulary knowledge

-Students add their voice or text narration to a presentation with GIFs; create a personal vocabulary journal using GIFs

-Teacher created screencast using GIFs, students view and write a dialogue between the characters

-Display a GIF, students write a sentence or short story (before, during video, after) for each video prompt

-GIF Gallery Walk: Set up barcodes around your classroom, linked to different GIFs, students must write a descriptive sentence for each video viewed

-Have students create a digital story using GIFs

-Present a series of GIFs to the students, they put the GIFs into order and explain why

-Embed files into a Prezi, students view the prezi and compose an email to the main character asking about his/her day

-Challenge your students to create and narrate their own GIFs using this site

Please feel free to share your own ideas and comments below! 🙂

Using @canva!

I always love coming across technology tools that make my life easier! 😉 Recently, thanks to a colleague, I was introduced to canva.com. Similar to glogster but better!

I created a few flyers/posters for upcoming workshops but the possibilities are endless for world language classes!

-Class Syllabus
-Class Announcements
-Character Analysis
-Vocabulary study
-Family Trees
-Blog Post
-Shopping lists/costs
-A funny meme
-Student’s favorite quotes
-What does this image represent to you? Writing prompt
-Creative note taking

Canva.com provides you with options on creating an image for social media, a presentation, poster, facebook cover, facebook post, blog graphic and more! Think about the different ways students can demonstrate their learning through the simple creation of their own social media image or blog graphic. With a few simple clicks, students can create their own visual representations with text of what they are learning or want to share about!

The website was easy to use and had many “free” options. You can download the document as a .PDF or .JPG file or share it right from the website by making it “public” or through Twitter/Facebook.

Best of luck exploring Canva.com everyone! Please share any additional ideas below!

The Power of Social Media – NECTFL 2016 Flyer

Get #techified! – FLENJ 2016 Flyer

Top Ten Formative Tech Tools – FLENJ 2016 Flyer

Using “Emoticons” for creative output

*An interpersonal communication activity*

Interpersonal communication is the hardest skill for our students to gain confidence. How can we better prepare students to have meaningful interactions in the target language?

“Emoticons” or those little images have been part of our student’s texting conversations for some time now. Then, it struck me, why not use these fun little symbols in our classrooms?

The idea is to transfer the usage of the “emoticon” into a conversational activity for our second language-learning students. If you try this activity and have other suggestions, please share below!

  • Bravely find a volunteer to assist you and have an emoticon-only conversation or use a message generator tool to create your own.
  • Take a screen shot of your conversation an email it to yourself.
  • photo
  • Display for students to view. Ask questions about what the different pictures mean in the target language. For example, point to the happy expression: ¿Está feliz or está triste? Allow some time for creative brainstorming, no note taking needed though! A true interpersonal communicative activity means students use what they can, based on the input acquired.
  • Students pair up, at their desks or in a circle/line formation, to have their own emoticon translation conversation.
  • Students rotate to a new partner, same image displayed, more creative output occurs.
  • After a fair amount of rotations, display a “key” of emoticons for the class to see. (http://www.iemoji.com/ or http://www.secret-emoticons.com/twitter-emoticons )
  • Have students message one another using only the emoticons. Have one student take a screen shot of their conversation and post to the classroom learning management system or share with you via email. *If there is no technology on hand to use, have students pass back & forth a 5×7 index card and draw the emoticons they would like to communicate with.
  • Using the newly student created emoticon conversations, continue the next day by having students use each other’s conversations to spark some creative interpersonal conversations. You can also follow this up by having students create a story using the emoticon conversation as their spring board- what will happen next? 🙂